Making the move from manager to director requires a clear story about why you are ready for the title. The cover letter tells that story by connecting the dots with your experience. Here is how to build a cover letter that gets you the interview for the director job when you haven't held the title yet.
Breaking Down Director v. Manager
Before understanding what to include in your cover letter, it is important to first think about the differences in the roles of a manager and director. In many organizations, a manager is someone that leads a particular program, product, business unit, function, or other focus areas. The manager may or may not actually manage people. The manager probably also does not have any financial authority or accountability.
The person with the "director" or "head" title is the person that leads people and the programs/products/functions. In some organizations, this person doesn't necessarily have budget authority either. But, the director will have at least key input on the financial aspects of their area.
With these functional differences in mind, you can use the cover letter to tell your story beyond your resume to convey that you are ready for the director title. This means focusing on the skills and experiences that demonstrate your leadership capacity in ways that are relevant to the next step in your career - and the position that you are pursuing.
Provide the What
An effective cover letter will provide the key details from your resume that is relevant to the job you are applying to. Moving from manager to director will mean that you are including highlights about your leadership and ability to achieve results.
You don't want to repeat the resume when you include those details. Instead, you want to pick a few of the most important details that illustrate that you are the best candidate for the role. Think about the following when picking the right details for your cover letter:
- People Management. Explain that you have led people directly or indirectly in the cover letter. Provide details of exactly when you have led people, the types of people you have led, and the complexity/priority of those initiatives.
- Financial Authority. Make sure to include details about when you have had the budget or financial accountability on your resume. Having some experience in this area will help in most cases to show that you can. If you haven't held direct responsibility, then include details about your role or impact on the financials to show you can do it if given the chance.
- Strategy. Provide details about when you had strategic authority or impact on the long-term plan. Think about including details about your ability to influence or alter the strategy that led to better results (or reduced risks).
- Results. The impact on the organization, clients, or the market is key to illustrating your capabilities. To show that you are ready to make this move to the director, make sure that you include details in your cover letter about your ability to deliver results for the business.
Explain How You Lead
The next step to a strong cover letter to move from manager to director is to include details about your management style. Good leaders know that the how is as important as the what. So, include a paragraph in your letter explaining how you have delivered the results that you chose to highlight from your resume.
This section of your cover letter should not just provide a type of leadership style. Instead, it should outline how you engage people and resources to deliver results. You should include explanations with your leadership details about how you motivated people or influenced them without direct authority to achieve the results. Providing details about identifying resources, building the business case, and managing execution are all important parts of your leadership style. So, make a point to explain your approach to each in your cover letter.
From there, you can connect that perspective and style to the particular job that you are applying to. This additional piece will enable the person skimming your cover letter to easily see you in their open position. Do not assume that people will make these inferences on their own. Instead, show them your research and how your approach connects with their company culture. Doing this will increase your ability to land the interview, but also set the tone for that conversation because you have already given them a preview.
Describe Your Why
The most important part of your cover letter will be the why - why do you want to make this move from manager to director in this role with this company. That can be a tough answer when you aren't a part of the organization yet. But, you can answer that question broadly with your skills, your experiences, and the research that you do online. Communicate that message in your cover letter to give credibility to your message as a leader that is ready to make this transition.
This aspect of your cover letter isn't about your past roles or years of experience. Instead, this part of your cover letter is about the future. Think about your answer to this question in the context of the company that you are applying to and what you want to do in the future. Frame that information in a relevant way to the company that you are applying to. This may seem like a lot of work at this point, but the exercise of providing clarity in your cover letter will make a huge difference in your preparations for the interview.
Tying together the what, how, and why in your cover letter sets a strong foundation to make the move from manager to director. Weaving these together in a cohesive message will help you to stand out and to effectively prepare for the interview. You will want to include the relevant details from your past in this cover letter, but you should remember to keep those focused on the future. This will enable the person skimming your cover letter to see you in their open job and to view you as ready to be the one that sets strategy and leads the people in the delivery.
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